“China’s rising soft power: The role of rhetoric in constructing China-Africa relations”, an interview with Lucy Jane Corkin

Lucy Corkin holds a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations (cum laude), an Honours Degree in International Relations (cum laude) and a Research Master’s Degree in International Politics. Lucy was the 2008 recipient of the First National Bank Laurie Dippenaar Award for international post-graduate study.

In 2011, she completed her PhD at SOAS, University of London on Chinese public infrastructure financing in Angola, which was published as Uncovering African Agency: Angola’s management of China’s credit lines by Ashgate  in February  2013.

Prior to this Lucy was Projects Director at Stellenbosch University’s Centre for Chinese Studies (CCS) in South Africa from 2006 – 2008. Lucy has also worked in worked in public relations and issue management for several prominent South African mining houses and corporate firms.
Lucy has since 2006 participated in ground-breaking research on China’s relations with African countries, particularly in the construction and finance sector. She has made various presentations on her research findings and the political economy of China-Africa relations in general to government officials, business communities and academic audiences internationally. She continues to write extensively and provide commentary to local and international media on this subject.

Lucy speaks English, Portuguese, French, Afrikaans, and Mandarin Chinese. She remains a Research Associate of the Africa-Asia Centre at School of African and Asian Studies (SOAS), University of London.

Her publications include:

Books and book chapters:

  • Davies, Martyn & Lucy Corkin, (2007) ‘China’s entry into Africa’s construction sector; Angola as a case study’, China in Africa: Mercantilist Predator or partner in development, Garth le Pere (ed), Braamfontein: Institute for Global Dialogue & South African Institute for International Affairs, 2007, pp 239 – 250.
  • Corkin, Lucy (2008) “Oil’s fair in Loans and War: An Overview of China-Angola relations, Engaging the Next Superpower, Adekeye Adebajo and Kweku Ampiah (eds), Scottville: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, pp 108-123.
  • Corkin, Lucy (2008) “China’s strategic infrastructural investments in Africa” China’s New Role in Africa and the South, Dorothy-Grace Guerrero and Firoze Manji (eds), Oxford: Fahamu, pp 134 – 150.
  • Corkin, Lucy (2012) ‘African Agency: Angolan political elites’ management of Chinese credit lines’, China and Angola: A Marriage of Convenience?, Marcus Power and Ana Alves (eds), Oxford: Pambazuka. pp. 45-67
  • Corkin, Lucy (2013) Uncovering Agency: Angola’s Management of China’s Credit Lines. Farnham: Ashgate.

Articles:

  • Corkin, Lucy, 2007, ‘China’s emerging multinationals in Africa’, Africa Journal, Spring, pp 21-22:
  • Corkin, Lucy, 2007, “‘Angola Model” sets the trend for Chinese funding’, African Energy, issue 120, 5 September.
  • Corkin, Lucy, 2007, “The Strategic Entry of Chinese Emerging Multinationals into Africa” China Report, 43(3), July – September, pp. 309 – 322.
  • Corkin, Lucy, 2008,”Competition or Collaboration?” Chinese and South African Transnational Companies in Africa” Review of African Political Economy, No 115, pp 22-27.
  • Corkin, Lucy & Martyn Davies, 2008, ‘中国公司进入非洲建筑市场的分析: 安哥拉案例’ 西亚非洲,4, pp 59-63.
  • Corkin, Lucy & Sanusha Naidu, 2008, “China and India in Africa: An Introduction” Review of Africa Political Economy, No 115, pp 9-8.
  • Corkin, Lucy, 2008, “Roads to Prosperity” International Construction Review, 3th Quarter, pp. 16-18.
  • Corkin, L. (2009). “El papel de China en el desarrollo de las infraestructuras africanas: cuestiones de actualidad y perspectivas de futuro”, in Claves de la Economía Mundial 2009, ICEX (Instituto Español de Comercio Exterior), Madrid, Spain, ISBN 978-84-7811-637-9 HUwww.icex.esU
  • Corkin, Lucy (2009) ’The Role of Africa in Shaping China’s Foreign Policy’ 中国研究 [Revista de Estudos Chineses] no.5, pp 363-388.
  • Corkin, Lucy (2011) ‘Uneasy Allies: China’s evolving relations with Angola’ Journal of Contemporary African Studies, 29(2):169-180.
  • Corkin, Lucy (2011) ‘Redefining Foreign Policy Impulses toward Africa: The Roles of the MFA, the MOFCOM and China Exim Bank’ Journal of Current Chinese Affairs, 4(1-30).
  • Corkin, Lucy (2012) ‘L’Exim Bank à Luanda Modèle angolais ?’ Outre Terre, No 30: 191-210.
  • Corkin, Lucy (2012) ‘Chinese construction companies in Angola: A Local Linkages Perspective’, Resources Policy, 37: 475-483.
  • Corkin, Lucy (2012) ‘O Exim Bank da China em Angola’, Pontes, August, 8 (7): 4-7.
  • Corkin, Lucy (2014) “Monopolising reconstruction: Angolan elites and Chinese credit lines”, Tina Søreide and Aled Williams (eds.) Corruption, Grabbing and Development: Real World Challenges, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.

The paper now published in RBPI is entitled “China’s rising soft power: The role of rhetoric in constructing China-Africa relations” and examines key themes within China’s diplomatic narrative regarding its role on the African continent and contrasts with Western and African responses. Lucy Jane Corkin concede an interview about her article to Isabela Ottoni Penna.

Interview about “China’s rising soft power: The role of rhetoric in constructing China-Africa relations”, with Lucy Jane Corkin, School of Oriental and African Studies, Africa-Asia Centre, London, United Kingdom, lucy.corkin@rmb.co.za

Isabela Ottoni Penna do Nascimento

1) Comprising the discourse of ‘the West’ that surrounds Africa-China relations, how can you analyze Stähle’s (2008) affirmation that “ China could be convinced to ‘playing by the rules of the game’ ? 

I think this is a very western perspective, as you said, and I think the government of China is happy to play by the current “rules of the game”, for as long as this benefits the Chinese economy and Chinese foreign policy. But I think this country is trying to shape those rules, because as its economy has become more important to the global system and as it becomes more important politically, China will have the influence to shape the rules of International Relations.

The Chinese government has always been reticent to subscribe to or feel pressured to enter multilateral institutions of which China had no say in creating, and will condone the status quo as long as this is beneficial to the perceived national interest.

2) Can China assume a “responsible stakeholder” status  using, mostly, it’s soft power? Is this possible in a background in which other stakeholders emerged using hard power? The co-operations programs between Africa and China can ask this question themselves? 

China has identified  that soft power is important because if you consider   USA, although this country has considerable military presence internationally, soft power remains crucial to the USA’s global status, in terms of cultural identification and the global recognition of American brands. Thus whereas US military operations have lessened American universal popularity in recent times, a well-developed level of strong soft power has benefitted the US considerably.  As China cautiously allows its military to gain a more international profile, China is concurrently seeking to strengthen its soft power. The concept “responsible stake-holder” is a diplomatic channel through which China can become more involved in international affairs, and the traditional powers can encourage China to shoulder more responsibility.

3) Is it important that an alternative view on China — other than northern con tries  – is being published in southern countries, like Brazil? Why? 

It is very important! Unfortunately, a lot of the literature, particularly in English, that is written, is from the western (European and North-american) scholars’ perspective

Brazil’s geopolitical position is very different in terms of its relations with ‘the West” and vis-à-vis China, but such is important for Brazilian academics and policymakers to analyse these relationships from an alternative perspective. Obviously they have to take the account of views from the US and Europe, but the context of the developing South is very different to  the industrialized north.

It is a kind of emancipation of that discourse from a lot of dominant discourse that, also occurs in my country, South Africa.

This exchange is kind of a benchmarking, so that the south countries can receive a different academic and diplomatic perspective.

4) Why is that the “Beijing consensus” does not have the same meaning as the “Washington consensus”? 

In terms of Washington Consensus (WC) and Beijing Consensus (BC) the great difference is that the WC is a term that defines the basis  of the polices that emanate from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. It is  a term used by Western policy-makers, to describe themselves.

The BC is a term that western policymakers used to describe a perceived policy stance from China, but initially Chinese policy-makers did not recognise the terms as it imposed an artificial coherency on emerging International Relations discourse in China.

Read this article:

CORKIN, Lucy Jane. China’s rising Soft Power: the role of rhetoric in constructing China-Africa relations. Rev. bras. polít. int.,  Brasília ,  v. 57, n. spe,   2014 .   Available from < http://www.scielo.br/article_plus.php?pid=S0034-73292014000300049&tlng=en&lng=en >. access on  17  Oct.  2014.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/0034-7329201400204.

Lucy Jane Corkin, School of Oriental and African Studies, Africa-Asia Centre, London, United Kingdom (lucy.corkin@rmb.co.za)

Isabela Ottoni Penna do Nascimento  is member of the Program of Tutorial Education in International Relations at University of Brasília -PET-REL and of the International Relations Analysis Lab – LARI (isabelaopenna@gmail.com  )

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